Legislation and Policy Analysis combined reflect a strongly progressive national position on climate change; will underpin achievement of Ireland’s EU and international targets
Following Government approval, the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Mr. Phil Hogan, T.D., today (26 February 2013) released outline Heads of a Climate Action and Low-Carbon Development Bill 2013 for consideration by the Oireachtas Joint Committee on the Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht, and stakeholders. The Minister also released the final climate policy analysis report from the Secretariat to the National Economic and Social Council: Ireland and the Climate Change Challenge: Connecting ‘How Much’ with ‘How To’, which articulates a “carbon neutral” vision for Ireland by 2050.
“Release of these documents today represents a further, hugely significant milestone in the Government’s 2-year Programme for the development of national climate policy and legislation issued in January 2012”, the Minister said. While the outline Heads are a little later than promised in the Programme, Minister Hogan emphasised that “the absolute priority for Government was to ensure that we got the overall balance of the proposed provisions right having regard to the views of all stakeholders, and critical national considerations from both an environmental and an economic perspective. When we published our 2-year programme early last year, we laid out a framework under which this Government would deliver more on addressing climate change than any of our predecessors, a framework which places Ireland among the leading countries, not just within the EU but at a wider international level, in seeking to balance the challenges and objectives of a low carbon future, and deliver on both environmental and economic grounds. I am delighted today to be in a position to mark the latest significant step in delivering on that ambition”, the Minister said.
In releasing the outline Heads, Minister Hogan said that the planned Bill would be a first step in enacting “a critically important piece of national legislation in terms of the environmental and economic sustainability of our long-term future. The outline Heads reflect a strongly progressive approach, particularly Heads 4 and 5 which places a statutory obligation on Government to adopt and implement plans that enable the State to transition to a low carbon, climate resilient and environmentally sustainable economy in the period to 2050. A fundamental requirement to be taken into account in the plans to be prepared on foot of Heads 4 and 5, is the need for such plans to provide a basis for achieving Ireland’s binding mitigation targets and obligations at EU and international levels”.
On the issue of greenhouse gas emission reduction targets, Minister Hogan said he wished to put the record straight on this critical issue. “Ireland already has a challenging greenhouse gas mitigation target for 2020, which is binding under EU law. Compliance with that target is not an option; it is absolutely paramount and any ambition we set at a national level must, and will, respect compliance with this fundamental mitigation commitment and future increases in ambition” he said. As indicated in the Heads released today, the legislation being developed by Government will be unequivocal on compliance with existing and future obligations of the State under EU law and any international agreement to which the State becomes a party. Ireland has consistently and constructively supported EU leadership in seeking to mobilise an effective global response to climate change, and Minister Hogan said that a key objective for him in initiating the policy and legislation development process was “to ensure that we maintain our place among the progressive Member States within the EU and progressive Parties under the UN Convention on climate change”.
In accordance with the policy development Programme, the outline Heads of the Bill and the final climate policy analysis report from the NESC Secretariat have been sent today to the Chair of the Oireachtas Joint Committee. It is expected that the Joint Committee will consider the outline Heads in conjunction with the interim and final climate policy analysis from the NESC Secretariat, consulting with stakeholders and submit a report to Government by mid 2013.
Minister Hogan reiterated the central role he foresees for the Joint Committee in this critical phase of policy and legislation development. “I attach particular priority” the Minister emphasised “to the critical issue of coming to a clear national understanding of ‘how’ we will meet our binding EU and wider-international mitigation targets/commitments, in parallel with pursuing national objectives in a low-carbon global economy. From the outset of the policy development Programme, I have been completely open about the fact that there are no easy answers to the greenhouse gas mitigation challenge we face in the immediate and longer term. My intention is to ensure that the ultimate decisions on the way forward will be taken on the basis of a fair hearing for all stakeholders, and will provide a platform for a strong stakeholder and wider-society consensus on the fundamental objective of becoming a low carbon, climate resilient society with a competitive low-carbon economy over the period to 2050.”.
Thanking the NESC Secretariat for their analysis, Minister Hogan described the final report “as an impressive and inspiring piece of analytical work on the longer-term agenda to 2050 which merits careful and full consideration by all stakeholders before any final conclusions are drawn on a national policy position and the primary legislation needed to support it. The analysis presents a highly ambitious but appropriate and realistic framework within which a more detailed climate policy agenda can be taken forward. Carbon neutrality at a national level is a challenging concept that provides a powerful focus for policy development in response to the transition agenda. It will require further definitional elaboration as part of the policy development process, but a strong national objective is key to progressive national policy”.
In terms of next steps, Minister Hogan said that he looks forward to the constructive input of all stakeholders to the debate on national policy and legislation which will be facilitated by the Oireachtas Joint Committee in response to the outline Heads of the Bill and the policy analysis undertaken by the NESC Secretariat. He welcomed the indication from the Joint Committee that it is keen to hear from interested parties who wish to contribute to the debate on the issue of formulating climate legislation. The Joint Committee’s report, and the policy analysis by the NESC Secretariat, will be key inputs for consideration by Government in adopting a national policy position on the transition to a low-carbon future, and finalising the introduction of climate legislation in the second half of 2013.